PASSERS-BY leapt to safety as a crane went over and smashed onto Lyme Regis seafront.

Several Marine Parade beach huts were crushed when the machinery working on the Marine Parade Shelters crashed over the railings on Monday.

Quick-thinking workmen shouted to people below to move out of the way as it hurtled towards them.

No one was injured but officials said the incident could have had a tragic outcome if it had happened over the busy weekend.

The machinery was working on the £1.32m renovation of the seafront shelters and was transferring sheets of shuttering ply to the upper level when it tipped over.

Part of the Marine Parade has been closed off to the public during construction, but the lower level – the Cart Road – has remained open.

Lyme Regis Town Council owns the shelters and manages the beach huts, but the three damaged were privately owned.

Town clerk Mike Lewis said the beach huts were ‘written off’ and estimated there to be around £3,000 worth of damage.

Mr Lewis said: “At least no one was hurt, not even the driver. It’s fortunate that the Marine Parade was closed and it certainly justifies having it closed.”

Lucinda Cliff, owner of Rinky Tinks Ice Cream Parlour on the seafront, watched the drama unfold.

She said: “My electricity went off with a bang so I went out to see what had happened and saw the crane had hit the lamppost.

“It was coming down onto the beach huts, but fortunately it went down slow enough so that the workmen were able to shout to the people below: ‘get out of the way, it’s coming down’.

“There were people jumping out of the way.”

Ben Croad, 29, was going for a walk along the seafront when it happened.

He said: “You could tell one of the huts belonged to a family and if it happened on Sunday they could have been in it because it was packed in Lyme Regis on Sunday.”

PCSO Luke White was the first officer on the scene. He said: “As a precaution the area was sealed off.

“We were very fortunate that nobody was injured and it would be a great shame if someone got injured because we hadn’t closed the road afterwards.”

The first attempt to recover the machine failed after a larger crane was brought in to lift the smaller one. A strap broke during the attempt and sent the small crane crashing back down. It was left in place overnight until Tuesday morning when another crane was mobilised.

The main building contractor is CS Williams and the crane belonged to sub-contractor Febrey.

Mr Lewis said the Health and Safety Executive had been informed because it is classed as a ‘major incident’. The shelters project co-ordinator David Gale said the incident would be subject to an investigation.